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Tracking Down Pollution in My Hometown

For many people, contaminated water, land and air seem like an issue for only third world countries and most certainly not an issue for people in the U.S. That is until Flint. Flint is a city in Michigan, yet its water is lead infested.

Pollution in the U.S. doesn’t stop there. Pollution is alive and well in the world today, so I decided to take a look at the level of air, water and land pollution in my neck of the woods: Pensacola, FL.

I researched zip codes 32514, 32533 and 32571 through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program.

The zip code 32514 includes the University of West Florida’s Pensacola campus, Ferry Pass and Hillside. Zip code 32533 is Cantonment, Gonzalez and Ensley. Zip code 32571 includes Milton and Pace.

Based on the most recent TRI factsheet, 32533 has the most air, water and land pollution in comparison to the two other zip codes. Zip code 32571 has the lowest air and land pollution, and 32514 has the lowest level of toxic chemicals in water.

Both 32514 and 32571 have carcinogenic chemicals in their air– styrene and formaldehyde, respectively. Zip codes 32533 and 32514 have ammonia in the air, and they also have high levels of nitrate compounds in their water.

The top three chemicals released in the air and water for zip code 32514

1. Air: Hydrochloric acid (1995 and after “acid aerosols” only) 39%

Water: Zinc compounds 48%

2. Air: Styrene 31%

Water: Barium 36%

3. Air: Sulfuric acid 26%

Water: Ammonia 8%

The top three chemicals released in the air and water for zip code 32533

1. Air: Methanol 58%

Water: Manganese compounds 35%

2. Air: Hydrogen sulfide 10%

Water: Nitrate compounds 31%

3. Air: Ammonia 10%

Water: Ammonia 11%

The top three chemicals released in the air and water for zip code 32571

1. Air: Ammonia 87%

Water: Nitrate compounds 85%

2. Air: Dimethylamine 8%

Water: Dimethylamine 9%

3. Air: Methanol 4%

Water: Methanol 5%

Scoreboard’s Chemical Profile on hydrochloric acid shows that this chemical is one of the most hazardous; it can cause gastrointestinal and skin or sense organ toxicant. Methanol is also more hazardous than most chemicals; it can cause kidney toxicant and neurotoxicant.

Ammonia is ranked as one of the most hazardous compounds. Ammonia is a reproductive toxicant and respiratory toxicant.

The top establishment for pollution in 32514 is Gulf Power Crist Plant. The plant is a coal ash disposal site located at 11999 Pate St, Pensacola, FL 32514. This establishment releases 500 thousand pounds of pollution a year.

Zip code 32533’s top polluter is Ascend Performance Materials Operations LLC, which is located at 3000 Old Chemstrand Rd, Cantonment, FL 32533. This establishment manufactures and distributes chemical products. Ascend releases a little under 30 million pounds of pollution a year.

The top establishment for pollution in 32571 is Taminco US LLC, which is located at 4575 US-90, Pace, FL 3257. Taminco produces amines products for food, feed and agriculture markets. Taminco release a little under 300 thousand pounds of pollution a year.

Zip code 32514’s Total On-site Releases show that the amount of toxic chemicals being released in the zip code area is declining. The amount of chemicals reduced significantly since 2009.

However, 32533’s Total On-site Releases for land pollution are consistently high. The amount of water and air are very low.

Zip code 32571’s Total On-site Releases is consistently low across the board. The amount of land chemicals has dropped significantly since 2005. The chemicals in the air and water is still low, but it has increased since 2012.

Florida ranks number 19 out of 56 states for its total releases per square mile. As unfortunate as it is, I feel slightly comforted that my area isn’t one of the most polluted areas in the nation.

I also feel empowered by my research. I now know who the polluters are in my town and I know to use TRI to monitor their pollution. I’m now in a position to hold those establishments accountable for damaging my environment.

So, I implore you to take a look at your own neck of the woods because after all, knowledge is power.

Gina Castro is a senior at the University of West Florida where she is double majoring in English Literature and Journalism. When she's not researching new stories to write articles about, she is watching knitting tutorials or obsessing over Toni Morrison.

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